2006: Duke freshman blossoms early

Women's Rankings »

RankNameSchoolRating
1Alison LeeUCLA  69.68 
2Annie ParkUSC  69.98 
3Gaby LopezArkansas  70.08 
4Yu LiuDuke  70.13 
5Stephanie MeadowAlabama  70.15 

Women's Team Rankings »

RankNameRatingEvents
1Southern California 70.56  10 
2UCLA 70.68 
3Duke 70.79 
4Stanford 71.56  10 
5Arkansas 71.66 

Anyone looking for a lesson in positive thinking needs to spend the day with Amanda Blumenherst. Everything’s coming up roses.

Of course it’s easy to smile when you’re playing for the No. 1 team in the country and perched atop Golfweek’s individual poll. But the Duke freshman isn’t positive because of her success. She’s successful because she’s positive.

“I knew that junior golf had prepared me to compete with the top collegiate players,” said Blumenherst. “I wanted to go out there and I wanted to win.”

While Blumenherst stands out as the fairest freshman so far this season, plenty of other newcomers are sprinkled throughout the top 20. Vanderbilt’s Jacqui Concolino, ranked No. 15, joins Blumenherst as a two-time winner in her first year. UCLA’s Jane Park (No. 5) and Tiffany Joh (No. 10), along with Azahara Munoz (No. 8) of Arizona State and Taylor Leon (No. 12) of Georgia, also are in the thick of the rookie race.

So what’s it like being the new kid on the block and leading Duke upperclassmen top guns Liz Janangelo and Anna Grzebien – both former Golfweek No. 1s themselves – more times than not?

“How much practice you put in, you’re going to see those results on the course each tournament,” said Blumenherst, who leads the team with a 71.29 stroke average in 24 rounds. “It’s all fair game.”

Truth be told, Blumenherst is having an easier go of it in Durham than she was in Scottsdale, Ariz., where she attended the academically rigorous Xavier Preparatory. Four hours of homework each day in high school often were necessary to maintain her 4.2 GPA.

“Here I feel like I have a break,” said Blumenherst. “I get more sleep, get more practice time.”

While recruiting Blumenherst, Duke coach Dan Brooks noticed a special sound coming off the clubface when she struck the ball.

“I had a pretty good idea of what she was going to be like,” Brooks said. “She exudes positive.”

Even more appealing to Brooks, however, is that Blumenherst, a noted history buff, insists she’s on the four-year plan at Duke.

Good news for Vanderbilt coach Martha Freitag: Concolino also is degree driven. The long bomber plans on staying in Nashville for the long haul, and with victories at the Arizona Wildcat Invitational and LSU/Cleveland Golf Classic already on her resume, the future looks bright.

“She’s playing a different golf course than a lot of the girls,” Freitag said. “They’re building a Super Wal-Mart between my ball and hers.”

Freitag estimates the athletic freshman frequently knocks her ball 280-290 yards off the tee. What sticks out more than Concolino’s drives, however, is her undying devotion to the game.

Freitag recently had the team over for dinner during the NCAA basketball tournament and Concolino turned the station to LPGA coverage.

“It’s energizing,” Freitag says. “She brings a love of the game of golf to our team.”

Another case of a positive outlook paying off.

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